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Thread: 2019 Blue Mesa Kokanee Fishing Report

  1. #26
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
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    Gunnison, CO
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    So a guy I know was doing a delivery out at the house this morning and we talked fishing for 15 minutes or so. He's a local and has fished BM extensively for 35 years. He said ice fishing was very slow this winter. His friends, who are hard core ice guys and typically catch 200 18 - 24 inch macs per month, caught under 100 macs the entire winter and the length was down to 12 inches. The browns we've caught were all noticeably small. He also reports that this winter he was routinely cleaning algae off his line, something that hadn't happened before. I have noticed more algae in the summer and late last summer we had some serious blooms in Iola, the shallow basin.

    Is anyone routinely monitoring oxygen levels at the lake and reporting data on a website?

  2. #27

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by kokanee64 View Post
    Is anyone routinely monitoring oxygen levels at the lake and reporting data on a website?
    CPW collected dissolved Oxygen data in each of the basins at Blue Mesa in 2016 https://www.researchgate.net/figure/...fig3_324994515

    and reported that data along with the results of the mysis survey in the 2018 coldwater annual report. https://cpw.state.co.us/Documents/Re...eport-2018.pdf

    There may be more data available but you would need to request it via the data request form here https://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/...a%20Management

  3. #28
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    Feb 2017
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    Gunnison, CO
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    Thanks for the data links Captcapsaicin. The papers and sites you linked me to come at a good time as I just finished reading Barbara Tuchman's 784 page pot boiler, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century. Reading about a 100 year period when Europe lost 60% of its population puts Blue Mesa's problems in a different perspective.

    Fishing for salmon is still very slow but trout are biting well. We fished Sat morning, having forgotten the fishing tournament had been rescheduled for that day. We started at the power lines W of the marina and fished the Bay of Chickens. We picked up a couple of salmon and several lake trout before heading to Cebolla, where we picked up 2 more salmon and more L trout. We were catching really shallow, 7 - 11 ft deep, and 17 - 31. The usual colors were working: pink, green, blue, watermelon pattern and orange. There was no clear pattern about depth or color, just random fish now and then.

    Today (Monday) we took a friend and returned w/ no salmon after leaving a trail of dead lake trout in our wake. We tried Iola first and caught only trout. We gave up and went to Cebolla channel, where we caught more trout. There is no early morning bite. I think the "hot" period is maybe between 8 and 9. The 10 salmon we've caught over 4 trips have appeared healthy except for gill lice. The two better fish on Sat weighed 1.5 lb each. Water temps are approaching mid 50s F. Air temps are in the high 40s and low 50s on the way to the marina at 5:30 am.

    The lake is down 4 ft or so over the last 10 days but finished May up 34 ft since the end of March and up 25 ft since the end of April. We are at 53% of full pool and 50 ft below full pool. The dock hands report that NPS is telling them to expect the lake to fill, starting in 10 - 14 days. For right now the outflows (about 6000 cfs) are bigger than the inflows (3000 - 4000 cfs) but locals think the big inflows are still a week or two away. I'm having a tough time imagining that a LOT more spring runoff is going to make the salmon fishing magically turn on, and, heresy of heresies, I've started wondering about alternative fishing spots we could visit while Blue Mesa percolates. This is a tough time to be fishing Blue Mesa but a good time to be out on the water messing around in boats.

  4. #29

    Default 6/19 - 6/22 Report

    Finally got out to Blue Mesa from the great state of Utah! What a beautiful reservoir - I still might like Flaming Gorge more, but your fishery is beautiful.

    I inspected and launched at Elk Creek, talking with another angler in the parking lot on Thursday AM he said Lake Fork was where it was at. I had no reason to think otherwise so I headed all the way down. If you are reading this - thanks for all your help stranger!

    First day caught two at 17 ft, second day went 4 for 12 at 7 ft, and third day went 5 for 6 at 7ft. I have included pictures of all the flies, squids and dodgers that hooked up on my trip - TOTALLY different from what I have had any success with in Utah over the years. All fish seemed to be that middle of the road second year class 1.5 - 2 pounds at 14-17".

    Many, MANY hook ups long lining with no downrigger at all. I swapped all my hooks to number two gamigatsu hooks after losing so many on the second day.

    During cleaning the second day I met a couple who pointed out the kokanee were infested with gill lice, sure enough I checked my fish the next day and four of the five had them.

    Anyways - beautiful lake and good luck out there. I registered just to post this information because of all the help I got from reading it. Thanks again!!

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    Last edited by Pac12AfterDark; 06-23-2019 at 10:46 PM.

  5. #30
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    Feb 2017
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    Gunnison, CO
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    Thanks for the info Pac12afterdark. I wish we had seen it before leaving this morning but I'll use if we fish tomorrow.

    Fishing today (Monday) was slow, with 3 salmon and 4 small macs in about 2.5 hours of fishing. The temp in Gunnison was 32F and the water temp was 57F. We haven't yet found a pattern, so we are trying lots of colors at lots of depths and lots of speeds. We tried Bay of Chickens out of the box without a bite after 30 minutes, so we pull everything in and went to Sapinaro. Robby, Randy, Seth and the Kokaholic (all guides) were there. Before putting the line in the DR release, we picked up a kokanee on orange -- essentially a 80 ft long line. The other two kokes were on 1.5 - 2.5 colors on leadcore, one on blue and one on pink. The smaller koke (1.3 lb) had substantial gill lice while the other two (1.5 lb each) had few or no lice.

    We also fished the previous Thursday, with 6 - 8 trout and zero salmon.

    Before that, we made a 5 day camping and fishing trip to Lake Powell. Because the salmon fishing was so slow we thought we would trade cool temps and cool fishing at Blue Mesa for hot temps and hot fishing at Powell. We got the hot temps but I never cleaned a fish a Powell and didn't much care since we got the hot temps, refreshing swims and the incredible scenery.

    When we returned we were gobsmacked by how much the lake has risen, nearly 2 ft per day for the last 10 days or so. Inflows peaked a week or so back, with one day over 10,000 cfs and several over 9,000 cfs. Outflows have been mostly low, sometimes below 100 cfs. We are currently at 25 ft below full pool and 75% of full pool. There is still lots of snow up mountain, so if the outflows don't get big we might fill the reservoir in the next 3 weeks. The lake now starts a little west of Wilson's Landing. We had two unrelated deaths on the Gunnison River last Friday, one on a paddle board and one in a kayak. The sheriff had closed parts of the river prior to these accidents but had opened the river again when flows moderated. Be safe.

  6. #31
    Join Date
    Jun 2019
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    4

    Default Worth the trip?

    Hi All,

    I have been wanting to chase kokanee at Blue Mesa since moving to Santa Fe from Washington state 3 years ago. Although my wife and I have caught some kokes in New Mexico, we haven't caught them as consistently as we did in Washington. We have a long weekend next weekend, and we were thinking about making the 5 hour trip to BM. My question is - is it worth the trip to Blue Mesa next weekend to try our hand at this kokanee fishery? It seems like the reports have been mixed and sporadic. Thanks for any help or insight you can give!

  7. #32
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    Feb 2017
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    Gunnison, CO
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    I had noticed our last two trips that several of the guides were using planer boards. I wondered at the time how this worked with leadcore line. After reading Pac12AfterDark's post above I realized they weren't using leadcore, this was just a way to spread flatlines. So this morning I set downriggers at about 4 ft -- I could see the release clip in the dirty water. One to two colors on leadcore. We caught 7 cokes, one a small one we were able to release, and 6 - 8 lake trout in 2 hour. We were fishing in front of the Dillon Pinnacles. The largest weighed in at exactly 2 lbs. So thank you Pac12AfterDark -- we had our best day this year with your help.

    For kokehead21: Is it worth spending some time at Blue Mesa next weekend? I think so. The weather is supposed to be good but it is realistic to expect wind coming up around noon on most days. That can be a good time to play tourist and gunnison and Crested Butte have a lot to offer. I believe the tour boat on Morrow Point Reservoir, which starts only a mile or less below the Blue Mesa Dam, is running again and is well worth the time and money -- reservations are needed but I don't know about lead times. check the Curecante Nat'l Rec Area web site.

    I'd come prepared to fish shallow. You saw the lures and dodgers that Pac12 was using and I'll post a photo of some of mine. He used squids while I favor beads and spinners. Practically anything will work and the trick may be getting enough lines in the water at shallow depths without endless tangles. Because the fish are hooked so shallow, they are immediately in the air and fighting like tigers. You won't match the good days we had last year but you'll catch some salmon and have some fun. I think fishing is picking up. I'm half expecting us to catch a limit of 10 on our next trip. We are going to be fishing 30 minutes earlier (setting lines at 5:30 or earlier). The Lake Fork Marina is much closer to the best fishing than Elk Creek Marina -- it takes us 10 - 15 minutes each way from Elk Creek and 5 gallons of gas. Gas is usually available at the two marinas or you can run into Gunnison and save enough to buy a couple of lures at Gene Taylors Sporting Goods, on HW 50. In previous years vertical jigging for salmon started a little before July 4. I can't imagine that happening so soon this year. The only fish I see so far at 80ft are macks. I've always thought the Elk Creek campground had more appeal than the Lake fork campground but I've never stayed in either.

    If you have other questions, drop me a private notice on this site above and I'll send you my phone number. I think we'll be in town this weekend and probably on the lake at least one day.

  8. #33
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    Feb 2017
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    Gunnison, CO
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    Photos for the previous post. Lures from yesterday, lures ready to use and the fish from yesterday.

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  9. #34
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    Jun 2019
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    Thank you for the information! When I lived in Washington, everybody helped each other out with fishing information. Since moving to New Mexico, fisherman are more tight lipped and information is harder to find online. Itís wonderful that you folks at Blue Mesa are willing to help strangers online. I always feel like there are plenty of fish around so Iím always willing to share information as well. Iíll let you know if we make it up and Iíll give a full report. I have an aluminum 16í 1981 Grumman with blue lettering. If you see us out there, say hey. Itís not the prettiest boat on the water but it keeps us fishing

  10. #35
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    May 2019
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    Kokeanee64,

    I noticed in your picture your running treble hooks on your squids and spinners do find that this helps with hook ups?

  11. #36
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    Feb 2017
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    Gunnison, CO
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    I agree with you Kokehead21 that it helps the share fishing info and I guess its pretty obvious my natural inclination is to share. On the other hand I've overshared a time or two and paid the price, so I can understand those that are more tight lipped. I suppose it comes down to how much sharing info will damage my fishing experience. Given the way kokanee fisheries work, I don't think helping others catch a few more kokanees is going to affect me at all. If anything, thinking about how and what to report can make me a more thoughtful fisherman. To each his own.

    Kamartin68: I always use treble hooks -- Gamakatsu size 6 EWG. When I use the two snelled hooks that come on many lures, it seems the first fish twists in the net and breaks off the trailing hook and I have to retie everything anyway. We don't lose very many fish with treble hooks and it is very rare that we lose a fish while netting -- if we can get the hook set well we usually convert. The only downside is releasing fish caught on treble hooks. We keep small salmon and brown that we inadvertently kill but are able to release a surprising number by carefully removing the hook. Practice helps.

    We fished this morning and caught 7 salmon with an average weight of just under 1.5 pounds. The largest fish was 1.75 lb and the smallest 1.3 pound. Over 80% of the fish we've caught this year are males. One fish today showed serious signs of attempted predation. Some fish are showing lots of gill lice (they tend to be the smaller salmon) but most fish are clean or show only a few lice. Purple was the best color until the sun was on the water, then chartreuse and other bright colors were better. We fished in front of the Dillon Pinnacles and then moved further west into the Sapinaro basin. I could see the release clips on the down rigger set ups and we had leadcore out 1 - 3 colors. We started fishing at 5:30 and caught two salmon within 10 minutes. The bite was over for us by 8 am or so. We are closing in on an elevation of 7500 ft and are only 24 ft below full pool. Inflows are down, below 6,000 cfs and outflows are starting to increase. The lake is still rising at over 1 ft per day. Early morning water temps are 58ish, warming to 60+ on a sunny day.

  12. #37
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    Jun 2019
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    I'll be up there for the 4th camping and fishing. Thanks a lot for the updates! Very informative.

  13. #38
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    Jul 2019
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    Hi All,
    I am new to the forum and live on the west slope, just got into chasing Kokanee from my kayak. Thanks for all the perspective, you have helped me get a fun start with your shared experiences.

  14. #39
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    Feb 2017
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    Gunnison, CO
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    Hey Kokaneeds, nice to see your post and thanks for the kind words.

    We fished this morning (Friday), a too rare event this summer due to other stuff that just doesn't leave us enough time. To cut to the chase, fishing was very slow, with one fish from this year's spawners and one from next year's. Hey, it is supper.

    Because we've fished so infrequently this summer we still haven't identified a clear pattern and the slow bite also makes it difficult to identify a pattern. A reliable friend who fishes regularly said he is having his best luck in the Bay of Chickens (Cebolla Basin) on DRs 12 - 15 ft and LC 2.5 to 3.5 colors out. His best luck is not very good, 3 salmon this morning. We caught today on LC at 3 and DR at 21. Both felt like one-off catches. Lure color seems to be random but we saw a lot of other boats using pinks. We are still catching 3 lake trout for every salmon. We sampled most of the Cebolla Basin.

    On the good new side, the lake at 7510 ft elevation, 90% full and only 10 ft below full pool. We are currently up 73 ft from the low point (which was pretty stable from early fall last year to spring this year) of 7437. The lake feels and looks full.
    Inflows were running in the 7 to 8K cfs range recently and outflows were around 1K cfs, resulting in a rise of about 1.5 ft per day. So the lake is going to fill unless water managers increase the outflows rapidly. The water is dirty with debris, logs, sticks and stems that we don't need, and mud.

    Being fishermen, everyone I talk to about the lake has a theory explaining the low catch. Most believe the fish are just shallow (and they are certainly shallow) and we just have to wait for the water to clear up and they will go deeper. I don't believe there are very many salmon in this year's spawning cohort. I'd guess they were eaten by lake trout (mackinaws). Several of the fish we've caught this summer show scars that look like the salmon escaped the jaws of a big mac. The question of the summer is when and if the fish will begin schooling in preparation for the run up the river. In years past they reliably schooled at 80 ft near the iron works and several other places. We have often jigged for fish on the 4th of July or within a week or two. Will salmon leave the 12 - 15 ft strata and school at 80 ft anytime soon? I'm skeptical but my opinion is only an ill-informed guess. Some males are beginning to look like males (it is in the mouth for me) but the female eggs and male sperm sacks aren't developing yet. I don't know what triggers the fall spawning behavior -- I'd guess it the amount of light or length of day, but that is just more guessing. Don't know if it is significant but the overwhelming (like 80%) number of this salmon I've cleaned this summer have been males.

    Mary is using the word "glacial" to describe how slow fishing is, and I can't disagree, but it felt good to be out this morning, watch a sunrise, enjoy the calm, cloudless sky, mess around with a boat, and spend some quality time with my sweetheart of 42 years. Life can be good even when the fish don't cooperate.

  15. #40
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    Jul 2019
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    Hey kokanee64,
    I made it out for the early session Wednesday and had similar results. I flatlined two rods ~120ft behind the kayak and no weight. I caught 3 on hoochies and lost 3 more, I am still learning gear management on the kayak in close quarters.
    Pink and purple was the ticket for me with 5 out of 6 hookups, one on chartreuse/ orange. I was doing best with very small dodgers with a wide kick. A few scrappy browns and more rainbows filled out the slow times.
    I guess you must be picking up the Lakers on spinners and spoons, I havenít hooked up with any yet targeting salmon but I am fishing east of cebolla for yak access.
    All I can figure out (and I have very limited experience) is that the ones I am hooking up with are working the plankton on the slow current seams near the cliffs, the rest of the lake seems to be a crap shoot. I saw schools at 15-30 ft all over last weekend, this week only a few at a time.
    Wish I knew what that is all about. These fish are an absolute ball to chase, I appreciate any feedback to understand them better

  16. #41
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    Feb 2017
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    Sounds to me like you are getting it dialed in Kokaneed. We haven't been seeing schools of salmon; I think that when we motor over shallow fish they move to the side. In you kayak, you probably go right over them without disturbing them, so you can see the schools. Very interesting. Yes, these are my favorite fish to catch because they are such great fighters and they taste so good. I guess if you are a salmon that gets counted as really bad luck. Hope you have great luck.

  17. #42
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    Jul 2019
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    It is bad luck for them indeed:) Any time I get on them I am thrilled, if they move it is bad luck for me because top speed is 3knots and I canít keep that up for long. It is a big body of water to scout!
    I noticed in one of your earlier posts that you are using bead patterns with a lot of contrast, like black and white. Is that an early season trend for you or do you prefer that throughout the season?

  18. #43
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    Jun 2019
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    Hey guys, wanted to post since I said I would give an update for the 4th of July weekend. We didnít end up going to Blue Mesa since the reports were hit or miss and itís a long drive. We ended up going to Navajo lake and got into Kokanee there. My wife and I got our limits. Hope to make it to Blue Mesa soon! Thanks for all the information kokanee64!

  19. #44
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    May 2019
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    When I lived up in Wyoming on the flaming gorge most of the seasoned fisherman would say in big water years like this one the fishing usually sucked because the water was never very stable. Makes me wonder 2 things, 1) How many salmon may have died last year with the low lake levels and probably low oxygen levels that we don't know about? 2) If water managers can manage to keep the lake relatively full this year will next year be a banner year if they can keep the lake stable?

  20. #45
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    Jul 2019
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    I am really curious how the runoff and fluctuation effect the plankton. Sediment = nutrients = phytoplankton = zooplankton is my basic understanding. If water clarity gets very poor do the plankton end up entirely in the upper column to get sunlight? And if there is a balance throughout the few remaining months for the kokes to put on weight is it already a setup for a banner year?
    If anyone has been on Blue this week I would love to hear if you had any success, I am going to try to get there Saturday for a morning and take a visiting kid.
    Tight Lines:)

  21. #46
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    May 2019
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    I never thought about the plankton being up in the top of the water column, it makes a lot of sense though.

  22. #47
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    Well, at least the weather was beautiful:) One Kokanee for 5+ hrs paddling around. I donít know where in the heck the fish are, but I can tell you there arenít a lot between elk and dry creeks. Lots of algae, the lake certainly has plenty of nutrients, but even the trout are acting uninterested.
    Salmon seem to be heading deeper, 25-50ft seemed to be the trend.
    I hope somebody got something figured out today!:)

  23. #48
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    Feb 2017
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    After over a week without fishing we were on the water early Sunday morning; 1 kokanee, 3-4 small macs and one brown. It was pretty disappointing.

    Last Wednesday on an early morning trip to Montrose we noticed 10 - 12 boats, including 3 guide boats, fishing between Red Creek Islands and the middle bridge, so this morning we started there. In 45 minutes we didn't have a bite and no other boats joined us. We pulled in everything and went to the Iron Works. We found 6 - 8 boats and a herd of 20 big horn sheep near the highway. We caught some macs and finally picked up the single koke in the Bay of Chickens.

    The single koke was caught on LC, 1.5 - 2 colors, so it appears the kokes are still shallow. We tried deeper to see if the fish between 30 and 40 feet were trout or salmon. They were trout. We see a few fish between 70 and 90 feet but nothing that looks like the typical schooling behavior for this time year.

    On the good side of the ledger, the lake is now essentially full, at 97% of capacity and 3ish feet below full pool. We are up 80 ft from the low point this spring. Did all the run off cause the poor fishing? Was the problem caused by low water and low oxygen last fall and winter? Did a bunch of hungry macs decimate the year's spawners a couple of years back when they were minnows? Maybe all these things came together in a perfect storm that produced the worst salmon fishing in 20 years. My big fear now is that we won't have the necessary 15,000 spawners needed for eggs and milt this fall.

  24. #49
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    Jul 2019
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    Kokanee64
    Thank you for the report, I am glad that you sorted out the marks at mid-range, I caught one bow down there but assumed it was mostly Kokanee.
    I hope that the spawn is still strong and the fish are just dispersed right now, have we had good years for 2nd and 3rd year adults coming up next year in your opinion?

  25. #50
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    Feb 2017
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    Kokaneeds,

    Pretty sure I haven't sorted out the depth issue. Since fishing has been so slow on the lake, I was in Gene Taylor sporting goods in Gunny this afternoon to "talk fishing." One of the young dudes recommended blue squid and dodgers (what I've had luck with too) fished between 20 and 30 ft. We've been trying this range, as well as 30 - 40, when extremely shallow hasn't been working. We catch a lot more small lakers than Kokanee regardless of depth, so it is hard to say what the pattern is right now. I'm thinking there aren't very many fish in this year's spawning cohort but we may not know until we see them or not in the river on their way to the hatchery. Good Luck -- we all need it this year.

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